SCBWI: Please tell us a little about your
Matthewson: I have worked in children's
publishing all my working life! I started
as Editorial Secretary at Blackie Children's
Books, a wonderful independent publishing
company, then moved to Penguin for five
years, and then to Bloomsbury ––
another wonderful independent publishing
company! -- where I am now Commissioning
SCBWI: What are some recent titles that
you are particularly proud of having edited
Emma: Aside from Harry Potter, I
would also say a novel called FACE by Benjamin
Zephaniah. I had worked with Benjamin on
his poetry and we had talked for a long
while about him writing a novel. I was really
delighted how he took like a duck to water
to this very different writing discipline.
And also a series of books called 'Megan'
by Mary Hooper, which takes as its subject
teenage pregnancy, a subject I feel is incredibly
What is/was the most inspiring children's
book you've ever read?
Lord of the Rings. I read it five times!
SCBWI: What is the book you wished you published?
SKELLIG by David Almond. It has huge resonance.
SCBWI: What are the three books you are
proudest of publishing and why?
(See question two.) We have also published
at Bloomsbury two amazing books called WITCH
CHILD by Celia Rees, a marvelously powerful
book about the witch hunting that went on
in the UK and the US in the 17C. Also HOLES
by Louis Sachar, a book that is very unusual,
with a very unique voice.
SCBWI: What are the features that grab your
attention in a manuscript for children aged
That is wide age-range to consider. But
for the younger end I would say the read-aloud
ability. Generally, though, it is whether
there is something about the story or the
words that really stays with you afterwards
-- whether it be laughter or thoughtfulness!
SCBWI: What do you perceive as the role
of books in the lives of contemporary children?
I see it working in two ways: either as
an escape from real life into an imaginary
world, or as a way of more directly working
out what real life is about.
SCBWI: How would you define the "voice"
of Bloomsbury –– what books
best express this?
You have just used the word I would use
- 'voice'. Each writer we take on we feel
has that strong voice ––whether
saying something important in a new and
different way, or has found something completely
original to write about!
SCBWI: Does Bloomsbury have a profile of
writers it's interested in publishing?
We really are quite eclectic in what we
publish –– from gritty realism
to more fantastical books.
SCBWI: How many of each kind of book do
you publish a year? Picture books, concept
books, chapter books, middle grade, young
adult (YA/teen fiction), etc.
We don't have a fixed number of different
types of books that we need to achieve,
but as a very rough rule of thumb about
20 new picture books, 15 new teen/YA, 10
middle grade fiction, 2-3 poetry.
SCBWI: Is there an average print run at
SCBWI: Is there such a person as an ideal
Bloomsbury reader (outside of Harry Potter
Emma: Somebody who likes interesting,
14. SCBWI: Is
Bloomsbury interested in collections of
Emma: The only
short stories we have published have been
as folk tales and that is quite a specific
15. SCBWI: What is your definition
of the dividing line between middle-grade
and YA fiction?
I find it is purely content-driven. If there
is more sensitive material, such as scenes
with drugs, then it has to become YA. Both
areas of fiction though should be challenging
to the reader.
SCBWI: What are the features of a well-written
MG novel that catch your eye? For a YA?
For me, for both age-ranges the style should
be natural. Both should really make you
want to turn the page.
SCBWI: What types of books are you looking
for –– literary fiction, sci-fi,
social realism, magical realism, etc., etc.)?
We don't do much science-fiction. We do
do a lot of literary fiction, social realism
and magical realism. We are also looking
at novels with more historical content.
SCBWI: What do you see as the current trends
at the moment?
Books coming out in series again! Longer,
more demanding fiction, like for example
the revival of Diana Wynne Jones' Chrestomanci
series. Historical novels: for example CORAM
BOY, winner of this year's UK Whitbread
19. SCBWI: Are you accepting unsolicited
Emma: Yes, but
never by e-mail please! And, if a novel,
just the first three chapters and a synopsis.
Plus a stamped addressed envelope, please.
SCBWI: From your life as an editor, what
do you see as some of the common mistakes
authors could AVOID making when submitting?
Always try to research the publishing market
before sending out your material. Ring up
first and ask for the publisher's guidelines
to make sure you aren't wasting your time
sending to completely the wrong publisher.
SCBWI: Anything else you'd like to add?
I am very much looking forward to the conference!